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COVID-19 Guidelines for Recreational Water

Updated January 8, 2021

On Thursday, January 7, 2021, the Ontario government extended the shutdown in Northern Ontario for another 14 days to Saturday, January 23, 2021, aligning with the shutdown period in Southern Ontario. Find more details here: Ontario Announces Provincewide Shutdown to Stop Spread of COVID-19 and Save Lives. 

Facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness activities
  • Closure of all indoor and outdoor sports and recreational fitness facilities.

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the Ontario Government is easing restrictions in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990. This document provides public health guidance for the re-opening of public pools, spas, splash pads, and wading pools in the Porcupine Health Unit area. Owners/operators must notify the Porcupine Health Unit of their intention to re-open their facility. A progressive, assessment-based approach should be considered when planning the re-opening of a recreational water facility, in accordance with Ontario’s Provincial orders and Public Pools Regulation 565/90.

This guidance is subject to change as new information or Ontario Provincial direction/guidance is received.

Facilities that choose to re-open are encouraged to implement the following recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19:

Staff and Visitor Safety

  • Prior to arrival, all staff and visitors should complete the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to determine whether they can participate in community-based activities.
  • Documentation of visitor names and contact information is highly recommended for contact traceability in the event of an outbreak.
  • Staff and visitors exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 (for example, fever, cough, or difficulty breathing; for a complete list of symptoms click here) must not enter the facility and return home immediately to complete the COVID-19 Self-Assessment for further guidance.
  • Post signage at the facility entrance identifying COVID-19 symptoms, warnings for high risk individuals, and protocols to follow while on-site (distancing, flow of traffic, hygiene etiquette, etc.).
  • Staff and visitors should be reminded to practice hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • Hand sanitizing stations should be made available for use and performed before and after entering the pool area.
  • Any washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers, or similar amenities made available to the public are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition. Limit activity in change rooms. Facilities equipped with a shower on or near the pool deck should advocate its use.

Mask Requirements

Effective October 3, 2020, the Province updated the Ontario Regulation 364/20 that mandates the use of masks in all public indoor settings across Ontario which includes workplaces. The regulation allows for the temporary removal of a mask or face covering while actively engaging in any athletic or fitness activity (e.g. swimming) that would make wearing a mask difficult or hazardous.

A transparent physical barrier (i.e. plexiglass) does not replace the need for a face covering or mask. A face covering or mask is required when:

  • Two (2) meters distance is not maintained between coworkers on the same side of the plexiglass OR opposite sides of the plexiglass
  • A staff member is leaving their personal workspace line
  • Staff is working in an indoor area that is accessible to the public

Remember, transparent physical barriers must be cleaned and disinfected frequently.

Transparent physical barriers can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, when used properly with other public health measures such as wearing a face covering, maintaining 2 meters distance, frequent hand washing and proper cough/sneeze etiquette. 

Physical Distancing Measures

  • Recreational water facilities that choose to re-open must implement measures to ensure that members of the public are always able to maintain a separation of at least two metres between each other while on-site. Members of the same household may come within two metres of one another.
  • Capacity limits should be established and enforced to ensure that staff and patrons from separate households physically distance by at least two metres at all times. Capacity limits should account for site specific factors including considerations such as the facility layout, whether the facility is indoors or outdoors, and planned activities such as lane swimming.
  • As a reminder, facilities shall ensure that the total number of bathers permitted at any instant on the deck and in the pool does not exceed the maximum bather load as determined by Public Pools Regulation 565/90 and must not exceed capacity limits set by the Emergency Management Civil Protection Act, O. Reg 364/20.
  • It is recommended that the pool, spa, splash pad, spray pad, or wading pool comply with applicable physical distancing requirements by:
    • Operating with a reduced resting area, capacity, or aquatic activity enrolment; or
    • Operating by appointment or timed entry.
  • Facility and activity assessments should be completed to identify high traffic areas and measures put in place to facilitate a one-way traffic method.
  • Post signs at the entrance and in high traffic areas where maintaining two metres distance may be challenging; example posters can be found here. Also, the Mask or Face Covering Required poster.
  • Equipment which is provided for the use of members of the public must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as needed to maintain a sanitary condition (water slides, diving boards, or other climbing structures).
  • In areas where there may be a queue, place distance markings every two metres to give visitors a visible queue for physical distancing. If line-ups interfere with bather traffic on the deck or otherwise, the equipment should be taken out of use.
  • Any equipment that is rented to, provided to, or provided for the use of members of the public must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.
  • Seating and resting areas should be reduced. The provided seating should be set up to maintain a minimum distance of two metre spacing in all directions and disinfected between uses.
  • A progressive approach for the introduction of facility activities is encouraged to limit the risk of community transmission.
  • Aquatic activities, such as fitness classes and swim lessons, must be in line with physical distancing measures. For example, only other household members can assist swimmers with physical contact.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • All change rooms and showers will be available to the public, and operators must adequately clean and disinfect the facilities at a minimum twice per day and as needed.
  • Common cleaners and disinfectants are effective against COVID-19. Hand sanitizers and environmental disinfectants must be disinfectants must be approved by Health Canada. These can be identified by having an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) and must be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Expired products must not be used and discarded appropriately.
  • In addition to routine cleaning, facilities should be assessed to identify all frequently touched surfaces, such as handrails, doors, sink and toilet handles, light switches, deck furniture, and counter tops. This should also include frequently touched surfaces in staff-only areas, such as chemistry test kit, pump room levers, pens, tables, etc.
  • Damp cleaning methods, such as wet cloths and mops, should be used to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least two times a day, or more frequently if possible.
  • Surfaces that are in contact (such as underwater) with adequately treated pool water do not require enhanced disinfection. Sharing equipment, water toys, etc. is not recommended. In cases where equipment needs to be shared, proper cleaning and disinfection must occur between users.
  • Equipment and toys that are not smooth and easy-to-clean should be removed from use. This may include rope swings, fabric-based chair cushions, etc.
  • For more information on cleaning and disinfecting in public settings visit Public Health Ontario’s guidance document.

Pool Water Chemistry

  • COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets that can travel up to two metres. There is currently no evidence that the virus is transmitted through water but may occur through contact with a contaminated surface and/or being less than two metres from a person who is carrying the virus.
  • “Recreational water facilities that are properly operated, maintained, and disinfected should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.” Public facilities in the Porcupine Health Unit area must be operated in accordance with Ontario Regulation 565/90 Public Pools.

Staff Training and Personal Protective Equipment

  • Training plans should include COVID-19 specific protocols for administrative, janitorial, and life guarding duties on-site.
  • Staff should be supplied with their own personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as personal first aid equipment as required, such as, pocket masks, hand sanitizers.
  • Staff are encouraged to utilize non-medical masks during operational hours. Masks should not be worn when engaged in in-water activity.
  • Staff must actively assess PPE requirements based on activities being performed.

It is important to recognize that the COVID-19 situation is changing constantly.

Please visit the Porcupine Health Unit’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) website to stay up-to-date on the latest information including signage, screening tools, and general information. To speak with a Public Health Inspector please contact 1-800-461-1818.

Additional Resources:

DIN-registered disinfectants approved by Health Canada

Public Health Ontario Guidelines on Cleaning and Disinfecting for Public Settings

Ontario Regulation 364/20